Tackk

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Tackk is an Internet-based software that allows its users to create what could be called a fusion between a poster and a web site. Scribner: it is “a free way to create web pages using photos, video, buttons, maps, media, and other digital resources.” A Tackk page is quite easy to do, here is an example of a page made with some partners when we were experimenting this software. This page took us about fifteen minutes to produce. Here is a quick tutorial:

Tackk is a tool that can have some interesting uses for the classroom. For example, teachers can use the software to create their lesson plans, such as this one, which has been created by Scribner. The link to these lesson plans can then be given to the students, which can always refer to the page to follow the teacher’s guidelines. Tackk is also an easy way to share lesson plans with colleagues, as well as with teachers from all around the world. Teachers could also use this tool for student assignments. It can be used for online portfolios, for blogs, and for what Scribner calls Tackk projects. It could also be used as a visual aid for oral presentations. Students would have everything they would need for their presentations on one web page, and every student in the classroom could follow the presentation on their devices (if allowed in the classroom) at the same time. Furthermore, as Walsh expressed, Tackk, with its comment section (which is an automatic addition to the web page) can also be used to create an instant discussion forum. Students can then comment and give feedback to each other, which could be useful for students to improve their presentations. Collier also adds that if teachers use some kind of social networking (e.g., Edmodo) in their classrooms, the links to the students’ pages could be posted on its main page. This way, every student could ba able to know and appreciate what others have done. In order to be able to find easily the different assignment of the students, teachers could “create an assignment using a unique tag.” For example, it could be called Mr Miller’s class Blog Assignment #1, and students would use that same tag for their homework. Another use for Tackk could be to promote school events by sharing the links to the Tackk pages on the school’s website.

As for Tackk in an ESL classroom, teachers could make vocabulary lists associated with images, and give the link to students so that they can study more easily. ESL teachers could also use this tool to explain grammatical rules. Tackk could also be used as a replacement for more traditional writing tasks. Teachers could use these tasks to “gauge [the students’] spelling, grammar, sentence structure » as well as their overall creativity for the project.

Personally, I really like this tool. It is way more easy and quick to master and produce than a standard website and has pretty much the same use. Tackk can be somewhat difficult to master at first, especially on your own, but watching a tutorial will make the adaptation way easier. I do think that this tool would be harder to use with younger students or, if teachers are to use it with younger students, they would have to give many explanations and do a lot of modelling. Except for these students, Tackk could be easily used in secondary schools, cégeps, and universities.

Pros:

  • It’s free and easy;
  • It’s accessible on any device (computer, tablet, smartphones);
  • Tackk pages can be made private to maintain the students’ privacy.

Cons:

  • The privacy controls and other settings are quite hard to find;
  • It may be harder to implement this tool with younger students.

Prezi

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Prezi is a web-based presentation software that has been launched in 2009. The application allows its users to keep online dynamic presentations that can be edited from any device (i.e., computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) anywhere there is an Internet connection. Pictures and videos can be embedded in the presentation. Once you learn how it works, Prezi is quite easy to use. For example, this presentation took me about ten minutes to produce. You can create a free account, but your Prezis will be public. Otherwise, there are paying options to keep your presentation private. Here is a quick tutorial:

There are many ways in which Prezi can be incorporated in the classroom ESL, for both teachers and students. First, teachers can use the application to plan their lessons and activities and show it in front of the class. This way, every student can follow what is going on or know where they are in the progression of an activity. For example, as share by Schoneboom’s own Prezi presentation, teachers can use this tool to teach grammar and vocabulary, by using images and videos. As for the students, they can use Prezi as a visual support for their oral presentations (as they would do with PowerPoint).

Wickline shared other uses for Prezi, such as:

  • Have the students illustrate on Prezi a story they wrote, and present it to the class;
  • Have the students work on a collaborative project, since more than one person can edit a Prezi;
  • Have students produce a Prezi and show it to a peer, who would give the first student feedback before he/she presents it to the class.

Personally, I really like Prezi. It is like PowerPoint (which is still a great tool!), but it takes presentations to another level. The way it moves between the slides really adds to the dynamic aspect of the presentation. Furthermore, it is a great tool for the teachers who want to flip their classroom, since they can prepare their presentation, give the link to the students, and have them work at home at their own rate.

Pros:

Cons:

  • It may be harder to master for younger students;
  • The fact that it is web-based can also be a downside, since schools sometimes have limited Internet connections or students may not have access to computers;
  • It also seems that the dynamic movement Prezi creates in the presentation may cause motion sickness to cause users, at least that’s what Herb reported in his article.

Socrative

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Socrative is a student response system that can be used on any sort of device, may it be a computer, a smartphone or a tablet. It allows teachers to ask different kinds of questions, planned or not, to the students during class, such as multiple choices, true or false, pre-planned quizzes, or exit tickets. Most of the activities offered by the platform are anonymous, so the students do not have to share their name. Here is a quick tutorial:

In an ESL classroom, Socrative can be used in many different ways. First of all, you can use it to assess what the students have been learning during class with a quick multiple choice question, which do not have to be pre-prepared. As explained by Coley, the teacher only has to say out loud the question or write it on the board and associate answers with a letter. This way, the pace of the class won’t be slowed, and it will keep the students attentive. The teacher can then show the results on the board The same thing can be done with a True or False question as well as for a short answer question, in which students have to write an answer. Furthermore, the quiz option allows teachers to evaluate the students on a formative or summative basis. The quizzes have to be pre-prepared so that both the questions and the answers (if they are not open questions) appear on the students’ page. Teachers have the option to choose whether they want the quiz to be self-paced by the students or paced by the teacher. They can also choose to have the questions randomized, so that students may not have the questions in the same order. “With the ability to store and save students results [because they have to give their name in order to enter a quiz], Socrative can be used to visualize student progress and assist in adapting learning material and instruction.” Teachers can use these data in order to know which parts of the lesson has been misunderstood, or which students need more help. Socrative also allows the teachers to download or email the results, which makes the tracking of the students’ progress easier. However, as expressed by Coley, “ this [the quiz option] probably shouldn’t be used for a final exam but it is a great way to get some immediate feedback from everyone in the room about how things are going,” since students cannot go back to a previous question. When they have answered, they cannot change their mind.

Tucker also shared other ways to use the tool in the classroom. For example, Socrative could be used as a brainstorming activity with the open question option, in which students would anonymously write down some ideas that the teacher would show in front of the classroom. Another use would be for icebreaker activities at the beginning of the school year in order to know the students better.

 

Personally, I really like the fact that the students do not have to give their names for most of the activities proposed by the platform. This way, students who are more shy to share their answers in front of the class won’t have the same pression. It is anonymous so nobody will know which student gave which answer. I also agree with Coley when he said that it is a good way to review or finish a lesson. Indeed, I think the options given by Socrative, especially the Exit Ticket, give great opportunities to assess the students’ understanding of the lesson and give hints to the teachers about what they should review or go over again.

Finally, here is a brief list of pros and cons:

Pros:

  • It is free;
  • It allows paperless assessment;
  • It can be used on any device;
  • It is anonymous, except for the quiz
  • It is simple to use.

Cons:

  • Students cannot go back a question after it is answered;
  • Teachers cannot really use it to grade the students;
  • Students must have access to a device, which may be against the school’s rules.

Other source: (1)

TED Talks

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TED Talks is an online platform which main goal is to spread ideas through powerful short videos (called talks) that last 18 minutes or less. Talks can be found on almost any subject from technology to business including global issues and entertainment. TED Talks has also recently launched an educational platform, TED-Ed, which allows teachers to create a customized lesson around an educational video from the TED’s library or from any other website (e.g., YouTube). Here is a quick tutorial about how to use TED Ed:

One of the main aspect in which TED Talks can be used in an ESL classroom (or in any other course) is to start a discussion. As said by Olivia Cucinotta, “talks work best when teachers use them to give perspective and to generate discussion around difficult topics. It gets the students thinking about the subject and they form their own ideas and opinions. Teachers can use it to start a debate, dividing the class in two or three, depending on the different positions that students have. TED-Ed can also allow this kind of discussion, as shared by Leah Levy: “Using these tools, you can provide a deeper context for the talk, encourage students to engage rather than just watching passively, and spark deeper discussion both online and in the classroom.” Therefore, TED Talks and its educational alternative are great in engaging the students in interacting with each others, which is one of the most important aspect of an ESL classroom. Tara Arntsen also adds that the talks could be used in class or at home to improve the students’ strategies for notetaking and listening, as well as for discussion. Her colleague suggests that exploring and listening to different talks that they are interested in could be given as homework. During class, teachers could then ask different students to share or explain a video they watched, which once again could lead to discussions among students. Furthermore, the fact that TED Talks provide English subtitles to their videos could be used by students has a pronunciation tool as well as a spelling support.

TED-Ed is also a great tool for teachers who want to flip their classrooms. When creating their lessons around a video, they can add a context to give more information to the students, questionnaires with open and multiple choice questions to check the students’ comprehension, and link other resources (e.g., articles on the subject).

Emilia Carrillo shared some ideas as to the use of TED-Ed in the classroom. For example, she suggest that teachers could give as homework resources videos about the grammar points seen in class (don’t forget that videos can be taken from TED Talk as well as from YouTube). Another suggestion is that teachers could use this tool for paperless exams. Since teachers can keep track of the students’ work, they can always decide to choose one activity and to grade it.

In my opinion, TED Talks would be harder to implement in lower level classrooms, since most of the talks’ subjects are quite complex and the language can be harder to understand. However, TED-Ed has an elementary/primary section in which teachers could most probably find videos that would fit their groups’ levels. Nevertheless, TED Talks and TED-Ed could be easily used with higher level students. For example, the ESL teacher I had in Cégep used some talks during the semester. He chose videos that he knew would be accessible to the students and would fit with the curriculum, and used them to grade their oral comprehension. I also agree with Emilia Carrillo when she says that the videos could be used as a way to help students with more difficulties to have access to extra explanations about the subject, or to deep more in the topic than what is allowed within the time constraints of the classroom.

Story Jumper

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Story Jumper is an online tool that allows everybody to create digital illustrated books. The stories are made on an interface that looks like the following, where the author can choose from different images already given, such as props and scenes, but can also import his or her own pictures.

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The left page is usually used for an illustration while the right page is where the text is written. Once the story is completed, the author can read his/her book and, if desired, share it with his/her entourage or make it public. There is also the possibility to print or buy the book that has been created. Here is a quick tutorial to Story Jumper:

As expressed by Douglas Walker, the application is fairly easy to use and come with instructions, which makes it even more easy. This tool can be really useful in the classroom, because it involves the students’ creativity and imagination. It has been said that younger students quite enjoy playing around with the different graphics and props, creating their own stories. Furthermore, Story jumper has the ability to “provide ownership over student learning.” This way, the students can really feel like they are somewhat in charge of their learning and that they are really accomplishing a purposeful task, which is often not the case for the students. It also a great way to have the students create a story with images without having them draw, which can be humiliating for students who do not have a lot of artistic skills. Furthermore, if teachers do not want to write their own stories, they can have access to a lot of books created by other authors who have decided to make them public. This way, the can just find a book that correspond to the lesson they are teaching are use it in class with the students.

Story Jumper also offers a classroom version of the application. Though I did not experience it, some reviews found that it was an interesting tool to work with. When they log in, the teachers have their own dashboard where they can create classes, assignments and monitor the students’ works. It “allows teachers to create a secure virtual classroom where all student work can be reviewed as well as sent home to parents.”

However, Story Jumper also have downsides. Indeed, this software may be very popular for younger students, but older students may find the concept and the graphics too childish. This may impede their willingness to achieve the task that has been asked. Furthermore, not all students are comfortable with this kind of technology. Teachers will have to train their students in order to have them use Story Jumper and, as pointed out by Instructional Technology, it may take a lot of time out of content instruction. For younger students, teachers may even have to explain the software many times during the process of creation.

In the framework of an ESL classroom, Story Jumper can have multiple functions. First, it can be used by the students to practice the vocabulary, the structure, and the grammar rules they have seen in class. For example, the teacher could give the assignment to create a story, either individually or in teams, in which they would practice the past verb tenses and/or the food vocabulary words. If they do it in teams, the students will also improve their social skills since they will have to work with other members to accomplish the task. Story Jumper could also be used to evaluate the MELS ESL program’s C3 competency, which is to write texts. This could be a more enjoyable alternative for students than to write a text with pens and papers without any graphics to illustrate the story. Furthermore, teachers could use the stories they wrote or that have been written by their students to enrich the class’ library. They could either buy the books (there are discounts for class purchases) or by simply printing the different stories.

Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a free game-based application that enables teachers to check the understanding of their students. On www.getkahoot.com, the teacher can easily create a quiz, a discussion or a survey. The teacher can also find a public Kahoot to use in class. When it is done, he can launch the quiz, and a pin will appear on the page. The students will have to go to www.kahoot.it and enter the pin on the teacher’s interface. When the quiz will begin, the question and the answer choice will appear upfront on the teacher’s website, which would preferably be projected on an interactive board or a white screen. The answers will be associated with a colour and geometrical form. On their screens, the students will have to choose the wight answer. However, they must look at the teacher’s screen for the answers, because they only the colours and forms on their interface.

Here is a quick tutorial:

Kahoot! is a great tool to incorporate in the classroom. First of all, it motivates the students to listen to what is said in class so that they can correctly answer to the quiz. Indeed, the fact that there is a leaderboard encourage the students to give the right answer because they want to appear at the top of it, as it has been shared by Matt Miller. This way, the classroom turns into some kind of game, making learning more fun. The teacher can also keep track of his/her students’ performances, which are given on Excel sheets and help those who have more difficulties. He/she is then able to see which students have more difficulties and help these specific students. Furthermore, the teacher can also decide to have the students create their own quizzes, either individually or in groups, and have them present their quizzes to the class or to other teams. This option is a great tool for any classroom, because it reinforced the student’s learning by having them “thinking up potential wrong answers to questions, as well as the right ones.” This tool also allows the improvement of the social skills, either by creating a quiz in a team or by having the students answering the questions in teams.

Kahoot! is an application that can be used in elementary school, secondary school, and even in university! I personally experienced this software for the first time during a workshop I attended, which was filled with universitary students. Surprisingly, every single person in the room (me included) seemed to really enjoy this activity.

On a ESL (or any second language) point of view, this tool could be very useful in a classroom. Indeed, it is an easy way to review the vocabulary the students had to learn by showing an image and having the students choose the word that fits with it. Kahoot! can also be used to check the student’s comprehension of the grammar rules they have learned. For a more advanced classroom, this app can also be used to talk about cultural events or news topic, since there are almost no subject restrictions in a second language classroom, as long as it is talked about in the L2.

However, Kahoot! does have some downsides. First, it requires that every student in the classroom have an electronic device with an access to Internet, may it be provided by the school or own by the student. This, although being doable, can be harder to achieve in schools that have a lack of financial support or that have a clientele with harder backgrounds. It may also be against the school policies to let the students bring their electronic devices in class.

Other references:
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The use of an interactive whiteboard in the classroom

Interactive whiteboard,  if put in simple words, are a sophisticated replacement of the traditional overhead projector as well as the traditional blackboard, may it be a SMART Board or an ActivBoard. Instead of writing with chalk on a blackboard and using many different tools to project something in front of the class, the teacher can now use special pens to write on the interactive board and project activity sheets, games, videos, etc. on this one and only device, which is directly linked with a computer.

One of the main benefits of having an interactive whiteboard in the classroom is that it can compose with the different learnings styles of the students. Indeed, “tactical learners can use the screen and learn by touching and marking at the board, audio learners can have a discussion and visual learners can observe the teaching on the board.” This way, every student can benefit from the integration of a SMART Board or an ActivBoard in the classroom.

Other positive elements that an interactive whiteboard brings to the classroom follows:

  • It allows flexibility. Teachers can use many kinds of medias to support their teaching, such as videos, images, etc.
  • It is a low maintenance device and it is neat. There are no chalks and brushes anymore, so it is easier to keep the board clean.
  • It provides access to information and tools that are online since it is directly connected to a computer.
  • It is environmentally friendly. The interactive board allows the teacher to present their lessons and activities in different ways which can eliminate the need for many photocopies of the activity.
  • It integrates technology in the classroom, which is part of the MELS curriculum in the province of Quebec.
  • It can also allow “for connectivity in different locations; making ideal collaboration and distance learning environments.
  • Since we now live in a technological world, students may have more facilities to relate to an interactive board than to the traditional chalkboard. Furthermore, Lisa Buyer stated in her article that students find it easier to grasp a more complex concept when the interactive board is used.

However, there are also some negative points to interactive whiteboards, which are:

  • The difficulty to set up and keep the board and the projector aligned if it is not mounted permanently.
  • The teacher has to follow a special training to be able to use it.
  • The “lesson plan preparation is increased” when you are developing activities on the interactive whiteboard.

There are many ways that an ESL teacher could use an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. First of all, it could be used as a traditional blackboard would be used, which is by writing, for example, the grammar points on the board and have the students copy them in their notes. The teacher could also use it to link new words or instructions to visual clues, such as images, which would help the students to have a better understanding of want the teacher expect or means. A SMART Board or ActivBoard could also be used to play interactive games that are online or on a CD-ROM, where the teacher could pick students to come up front and do the action that has to be done in the game. This way, online games can become activities for the whole class instead of individual activities during a computer class.